NASA has been carrying out experiments on Kilopower — a small nuclear reactor that can generate a reliable power stream — to provide safe energy in abundance to carry out manned as well as unmanned missions.
Around 10 kilowatts of electrical power can be provided by this space fission power system. This amount of power can be enough for running two average households for at least a span of 10 years, NASA revealed in a statement on Friday.
According to a report by Business Standard, four Kilopower units can provide enough power to establish an extraterrestrial outpost.
"We want a power source that can handle extreme environments. Kilopower opens up the full surface of Mars, including the northern latitudes where water may reside," stated Lee Mason, NASA's Principal Technologist for power and energy storage.
"On the Moon, Kilopower could be deployed to help search for resources in permanently shadowed craters," Mason added.
Power is one of the most crucial resources that astronauts would require if they go on a space mission to the Moon, Mars or beyond.
An efficient and dependable power system will be crucial for everyday requirements of the astronauts, like oxygen, water, electricity and other objectives of the mission such as carrying out experiments and even producing fuel for the long journey home.
When it comes to the Red Planet, solar power would vary over the seasons, and the Martian dust storms can last for months. The cold lunar night prevails on the moon for 14 Earth days.
NASA's Glenn Research Centre collaborated with NASA's Marshall Space Flight Centre and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to design and developed prototype power system.
This prototype power system was shipped by NASA's Glenn from Cleveland to the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) in late September. The cohort of researchers at the NNSS started conducting tests on the reactor core.
The team will be connecting the power system to the core and begin end-to-end checkouts this month, revealed Marc Gibson, the Kilopower lead engineer, Business Standard reported.
"The experiments should conclude with a full-power test lasting approximately 28 hours in late March," a NASA statement stated.